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Conservation Planning for Offsetting the Impacts of Development: A Case Study of Biodiversity and Renewable Energy in the Mojave Desert.

Kreitler J, Schloss CA, Soong O, Hannah L, Davis FW - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Renewable energy development and biodiversity conservation are often considered beneficial environmental goals.Differences between the two scenarios highlight the importance of clearly specifying choices and priorities for offset siting and mitigation in general.Similarly, the effects of background climate and land use change may lessen the durability or effectiveness of offsets if not considered.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Western Geographic Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Boise, ID, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Balancing society's competing needs of development and conservation requires careful consideration of tradeoffs. Renewable energy development and biodiversity conservation are often considered beneficial environmental goals. The direct footprint and disturbance of renewable energy, however, can displace species' habitat and negatively impact populations and natural communities if sited without ecological consideration. Offsets have emerged as a potentially useful tool to mitigate residual impacts after trying to avoid, minimize, or restore affected sites. Yet the problem of efficiently designing a set of offset sites becomes increasingly complex where many species or many sites are involved. Spatial conservation prioritization tools are designed to handle this problem, but have seen little application to offset siting and analysis. To address this need we designed an offset siting support tool for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) of California, and present a case study of hypothetical impacts from solar development in the Western Mojave subsection. We compare two offset scenarios designed to mitigate a hypothetical 15,331 ha derived from proposed utility-scale solar energy development (USSED) projects. The first scenario prioritizes offsets based precisely on impacted features, while the second scenario offsets impacts to maximize biodiversity conservation gains in the region. The two methods only agree on 28% of their prioritized sites and differ in meeting species-specific offset goals. Differences between the two scenarios highlight the importance of clearly specifying choices and priorities for offset siting and mitigation in general. Similarly, the effects of background climate and land use change may lessen the durability or effectiveness of offsets if not considered. Our offset siting support tool was designed specifically for the DRECP area, but with minor code modification could work well in other offset analyses, and could provide continuing support for a potentially innovative mitigation solution to environmental impacts.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Max Cons offset sites.Max Cons offset sites (red) for hypothetical solar energy projects (gray) using a 2:1 offset ratio, over modeled species richness.
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pone.0140226.g005: Max Cons offset sites.Max Cons offset sites (red) for hypothetical solar energy projects (gray) using a 2:1 offset ratio, over modeled species richness.

Mentions: Offsets totaling 32,178 ha are required to meet the stated targets of impacted features (Table 3). Sites selected to offset impacts to species by the proposed projects are clustered in species-rich areas in the center of the study region that are in good ecological condition, in areas at the western margin of the study region that support intact habitats for a few species associated with that portion of the study area, and in the eastern and northern portions of the study region where sites provide the most ecologically intact opportunities for some riparian species and narrowly endemic plant species (Fig 4). The important result is that the value of these sites is readily apparent in terms of their composition, condition, land ownership and land management. Sites selected through the Max Cons scenario are more concentrated in species-rich areas in the center of the study region (Fig 5). While not unexpected, this result serves to emphasize that the location of offsets can be sensitive to one or a few individual species and the methods used to prioritize offset sites. The two scenarios did show some level of agreement and overlapped 28% (13,960 ha), primarily in the western and central portions of the study area (Fig 6), indicating their importance for offsets regardless of offset planning type.


Conservation Planning for Offsetting the Impacts of Development: A Case Study of Biodiversity and Renewable Energy in the Mojave Desert.

Kreitler J, Schloss CA, Soong O, Hannah L, Davis FW - PLoS ONE (2015)

Max Cons offset sites.Max Cons offset sites (red) for hypothetical solar energy projects (gray) using a 2:1 offset ratio, over modeled species richness.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4631376&req=5

pone.0140226.g005: Max Cons offset sites.Max Cons offset sites (red) for hypothetical solar energy projects (gray) using a 2:1 offset ratio, over modeled species richness.
Mentions: Offsets totaling 32,178 ha are required to meet the stated targets of impacted features (Table 3). Sites selected to offset impacts to species by the proposed projects are clustered in species-rich areas in the center of the study region that are in good ecological condition, in areas at the western margin of the study region that support intact habitats for a few species associated with that portion of the study area, and in the eastern and northern portions of the study region where sites provide the most ecologically intact opportunities for some riparian species and narrowly endemic plant species (Fig 4). The important result is that the value of these sites is readily apparent in terms of their composition, condition, land ownership and land management. Sites selected through the Max Cons scenario are more concentrated in species-rich areas in the center of the study region (Fig 5). While not unexpected, this result serves to emphasize that the location of offsets can be sensitive to one or a few individual species and the methods used to prioritize offset sites. The two scenarios did show some level of agreement and overlapped 28% (13,960 ha), primarily in the western and central portions of the study area (Fig 6), indicating their importance for offsets regardless of offset planning type.

Bottom Line: Renewable energy development and biodiversity conservation are often considered beneficial environmental goals.Differences between the two scenarios highlight the importance of clearly specifying choices and priorities for offset siting and mitigation in general.Similarly, the effects of background climate and land use change may lessen the durability or effectiveness of offsets if not considered.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Western Geographic Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Boise, ID, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Balancing society's competing needs of development and conservation requires careful consideration of tradeoffs. Renewable energy development and biodiversity conservation are often considered beneficial environmental goals. The direct footprint and disturbance of renewable energy, however, can displace species' habitat and negatively impact populations and natural communities if sited without ecological consideration. Offsets have emerged as a potentially useful tool to mitigate residual impacts after trying to avoid, minimize, or restore affected sites. Yet the problem of efficiently designing a set of offset sites becomes increasingly complex where many species or many sites are involved. Spatial conservation prioritization tools are designed to handle this problem, but have seen little application to offset siting and analysis. To address this need we designed an offset siting support tool for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) of California, and present a case study of hypothetical impacts from solar development in the Western Mojave subsection. We compare two offset scenarios designed to mitigate a hypothetical 15,331 ha derived from proposed utility-scale solar energy development (USSED) projects. The first scenario prioritizes offsets based precisely on impacted features, while the second scenario offsets impacts to maximize biodiversity conservation gains in the region. The two methods only agree on 28% of their prioritized sites and differ in meeting species-specific offset goals. Differences between the two scenarios highlight the importance of clearly specifying choices and priorities for offset siting and mitigation in general. Similarly, the effects of background climate and land use change may lessen the durability or effectiveness of offsets if not considered. Our offset siting support tool was designed specifically for the DRECP area, but with minor code modification could work well in other offset analyses, and could provide continuing support for a potentially innovative mitigation solution to environmental impacts.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus